Karl off the leash

On the eve of his ul­ti­mate test, the morn­ing an­chor is un­re­pen­tant, writes Holly Byrnes

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

KARL Ste­fanovic’s fit­ness for the job of TV an­chor is one of those wa­ter cooler con­ver­sa­tions that never seems to quit.

But in this case, it’s his ac­tual phys­i­cal stam­ina that in­spires the first belly laugh from the busy To­day show host as he runs be­tween the stu­dio and his car, au­di­bly puff­ing.

‘‘ How am I go­ing?’’ he says, be­tween deep breaths. ‘‘ Am I ready for the Olympics or what?’’

Whether he’s up to the task is a ques­tion even Ste­fanovic asks him­self with only days un­til he flies out to help an­chor Nine’s cov­er­age of the Lon­don Games.

‘‘ I am across sport, but I don’t think any­one at Nine would think they’re across the Olympics be­cause we haven’t had the rights for years. ‘‘ There’s an el­e­ment of this be­ing a very big job and I have to get across it or peo­ple find you out.’’

Six months of prepa­ra­tion, bon­ing up on Aus­tralia’s ma­jor medal hopes, as well as a broader brief about the host city and its stag­ing of the Games, il­lus­trates how de­ter­mined Ste­fanovic is to get this gig right.

He will front cov­er­age each night from 6.30pm, play­ing ‘‘ traf­fic cop’’ — a com­bi­na­tion of in­tro­duc­ing events and in­ter­view­ing star ath­letes.

Tak­ing on the chal­lenge, on top of his To­day show du­ties and a rov­ing role on 60 Min­utes, is as much about keep­ing him­self stim­u­lated be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion about what he does next.

With his Chan­nel 9 deal ex­pir­ing at the end of this year, there has been con­stant chat­ter Ste­fanovic may be up for a chan­nel change.

And if you be­lieve the ru­mour mill, Ste­fanovic’s mates in high places — in­clud­ing Nine boss David Gyn­gell and Ten chair­man Lach­lan Mur­doch — are arm-wrestling to keep or snare the Gold Lo­gie win­ner for their net­works.

His sneer­ing crit­ics would sug­gest the 37-year-old’s re- cent ca­reer suc­cesses re­flect his pow­er­ful bud­dies rather than his 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence and calm han­dling of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as the Queens­land floods or Christchurch earth­quake.

It’s an as­sump­tion Ste­fanovic ad­mits an­noys him but is out of his hands.

‘‘ I can’t con­trol what peo­ple say about my re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple, I just have to work on what I do. If some­one wants to em­ploy me, it’s go­ing to be less about my abil­ity to get on with the boss and more to do with my abil­ity to get on with the au­di­ence,’’ he says.

Ste­fanovic de­nies any job of­fer from Mur­doch has been made, say­ing, ‘‘ It’s just some­thing that peo­ple as­sume be­cause he works at Chan­nel 10 that there would be some­thing hap­pen­ing there for me’’.

Be­sides, he says, he has an Olympics gig to get through un­scathed be­fore sit­ting down with wife Cassie and de­cid

ing on his fu­ture.

Avoid­ing trou­ble is eas­ier said than done for the self­styled joker.

His last over­seas jaunt to Bri­tain for the Royal wed­ding landed him in the head­lines for some high-jinks, specif­i­cally a toe-suck­ing in­ci­dent with To­day co­hort Ben Ford­ham.

Re­minded of the head­lines, Ste­fanovic emits a Mut­ley-like chuckle.

‘‘ What about that? Look I was very tired that day and I was just demon­strat­ing the Sarah Fer­gu­son tech­nique, in light of the royal fam­ily hav­ing a wed­ding.’’

As re­pen­tant as he gets, he says, ‘‘ Look I do have a good time and I will. But some­times I go too far and clearly that time I lost sense of my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.’’

Just don’t ex­pect the halo to al­ways fit, Ste­fanovic adds.

Even af­ter be­ing pub­licly re­buked for his in­fa­mous postLo­gies per­for­mance when he ap­peared in­tox­i­cated on air, Ste­fanovic says he won’t curb his en­thu­si­asm.

‘‘ It’s get­ting harder and harder for peo­ple to be dif­fer­ent and to be nor­mal and en­joy things in life. Wher­ever you go there are fun po­lice and peo­ple watch­ing. That’s not to say this job doesn’t come with

Liz Cam­bage, Shane Perkins and Craig Mot­tram (top right) are set to com­pete

at the Games.

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